Luka Jovic’s early header set Fiorentina on their way

Hearts were thrashed by a rampant Fiorentina to leave their Europa Conference League progression hopes hanging in the balance.

Robbie Neilson’s side were blown away in the first half as Luka Jovic, Cristiano Biraghi, Nicolas Gonzalez and Antonin Barak all fired past Craig Gordon in Florence.

Stephen Humphrys pulled one back for the visitors inside the first two minutes of the second half, but Gonzalez restored the four-goal cushion from the penalty spot.

It means Hearts now have to win their two remaining group games against RFS and runaway group leaders Istanbul Basaksehir, and hope that Fiorentina only take a maximum of one point from their remaining fixtures.

“We spoke before the game about being positive”, Neilson told BBC Scotland.

“We felt like last Thursday night we weren’t getting up the park enough and this game we were up and at it, but against a physical team – they’re physical specimens – you’ve got to double your effort and it wasn’t until the second half that we did that.”

Fiorentina have struggled domestically all season, winning only two games in Serie A. They came into this game off the back of a 4-0 defeat by Lazio on Monday, and Hearts, sensing a potential vulnerability, almost made the perfect start.

Sofyan Amrabat played an uncharacteristically loose pass into midfield, where Barrie McKay was lurking. The diminutive winger fed Humphrys, and the former Wigan striker – in from the start ahead of Lawrence Shankland – shot across Pierluigi Gollini, but saw his low strike come back off the post.

It seemed to shake Fiorentina into life, as they first forced a good save out of Gordon, and then took the lead.

A short corner caught Hearts cold, and a pin-point cross from home captain Biraghi picked out Jovic just outside the six-yard box. The former Real Madrid man was completely unmarked and made no mistake, heading down into the corner.

Rolando Mandragora struck a fierce shot that crashed away off the post with Gordon nothing more than a bystander, but the hosts did not have to wait long before they doubled their lead.

After a soft free-kick went Fiorentina’s way on the edge of the Hearts area, Biraghi struck a beautifully judged shot up and over the wall into the top corner. The award was harsh, but Fiorentina were fully deserving of their two-goal lead.

Things went from bad to worse for Hearts on the half-hour mark. Some intricate passing on the edge of visitors’ box opened up the Tynecastle side again, and after Jovic let Kouame’s pass through his legs, Gonzalez was on hand to roll a shot back across Gordon and into the far corner.

As Fiorentina sliced through Hearts at will, the fourth goal seemed almost inevitable, and sure enough, the away goal was breached again on 38 minutes. Barak found Kouame inside the Hearts box, and the Ivorian had all the time in the world to pull the ball back to his team-mate, who made no mistake from 12 yards.

Hearts came out swinging after the break though, perhaps with Neilson’s words ringing in their ears, and just as in the first half, Humphrys was put in on goal, this time rolling a low shot beyond Gollini.

Credit to Hearts, they put up more of a fight in the second half, but the game was already lost and Fiorentina had clearly taken their foot off the gas. When the hosts did click into gear, they broke into the Hearts box, Alex Cochrane kicked out at Riccardo Saponara and the referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Gonzalez stepped up and coolly sent Gordon the wrong way to notch his second goal of the evening and Fiorentina’s fifth.

Shankland, introduced off the bench, saw a speculative effort drift onto the roof of the net after he spotted Gollini off his line, but Fiorentina comfortably saw out the last 10 minutes to secure a resounding home win.

Player of the match – Nicolas Gonzalez

Fiorentina's Nicolas Gonzalez
The Argentina international was a constant thorn in Hearts’ side, and thoroughly deserved his two goals

Leaky Hearts defence wide open again – analysis

Hearts’ injury woes at the back are well documented, but they are shipping goals at an alarming rate. That is now 14 goals against in their last four games in all competitions.

Fiorentina have quality players, but the ease with which they sliced through Hearts will be alarming. It was a simple ball into the box that broke the deadlock at Tynecastle last week, and it was the same again in Tuscany.

Neilson remains without the influential Craig Halkett and summer signing Kye Rowles, but the Hearts boss needs to find a way to shore things up at the back, especially with a run of tricky games leading up to the World Cup break.

What’s next?

Hearts travel to Pittodrie on Sunday for a Scottish Premiership game with Aberdeen (15:00 BST).



Formation 4-3-3

  • 95Gollini
  • 15Terzic
  • 4Milenkovic
  • 98dos Santos de Paulo
  • 3BiraghiBooked at 69minsSubstituted forVenutiat 80′minutesBooked at 85mins
  • 72BarakSubstituted forBiancoat 80′minutes
  • 34S Amrabat
  • 38MandragoraSubstituted forDuncanat 45′minutes
  • 22González
  • 7JovicSubstituted forSaponaraat 45′minutes
  • 99KouaméSubstituted forMendonça Cabralat 87′minutes


  • 1Terracciano
  • 2Cordeiro Dos Santos
  • 5Bonaventura
  • 8Saponara
  • 9Mendonça Cabral
  • 11Ikoné
  • 14Maleh
  • 16Ranieri
  • 23Venuti
  • 27Zurkowski
  • 32Duncan
  • 42Bianco


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Gordon
  • 12AtkinsonSubstituted forSibbickat 16′minutesBooked at 69mins
  • 3Kingsley
  • 19CochraneBooked at 78mins
  • 16Halliday
  • 5HaringBooked at 48mins
  • 14Devlin
  • 17ForrestSubstituted forKiomourtzoglouat 45′minutes
  • 7GrantSubstituted forSmithat 45′minutesBooked at 87mins
  • 18McKaySubstituted forHendersonat 75′minutes
  • 29HumphrysSubstituted forShanklandat 74′minutes


  • 8Kiomourtzoglou
  • 9Shankland
  • 13Stewart
  • 21Sibbick
  • 22Henderson
  • 27Smith
  • 28Clark
  • 39Pollock
  • 45Tait

Live Text

Source link